Forward not back

A few things.

I’ve always felt very temporary about myself. How best to sum it up? That moment in Heat, when Robert De Niro says someone once told him: “Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner” - that’s how to sum it up. I don’t have long-term contracts. I don’t have a mortgage, or a loan, or a phone contract, or a lease agreement on a car. Everything I have, I own myself - except where I live. I rent a loft and I’m happy with it. Because it’s not mine - I could give notice and leave it behind, move on. And so I’ve always done.

I went to Hong Kong 14 years and 2 months ago. It was supposed to be for a while, so see what happened. It was 11 years of trying new things and being isolated from baggage and stuff I didn’t need and left behind. Every few years I would have to move to a new flat, either through monetary or social reasons. It taught me that everything you have is just Stuff, and you don’t need half of what you think you do. When I got back and found that I had misplaced a whole box of Stuff, I wasn’t too upset. I was more concerned about how I’d made that much of a mistake, not about the Stuff itself. As it turns out, you can replace Stuff if you have enough money and access to Tinternet. So there’s that.

The problem now is that I’m back and I’m bored. I always thought I’d be here for a while, but now I’m not so sure. When I go to bed I wonder about other countries and where to go next. I think about getting a job in the U.S. so I can volunteer at Dragon*Con every year. I think about how easy it would technically and financially be to go to Europe and work there whilst the UK passport is still good. When I’m at work and people talk about problems and the state of the world, I wonder how I can volunteer for the Mars One programme. And that’s where things get depressing.

See, it’s all Star Trek’s fault. We can all strive and work towards the best that we can make things, but there will always be people like Donald Trump or Radovan Karadzic bringing us all back down again. But part of you still wants to accomplish incredible things - to travel, to see, to try, to understand, to get away from everything familiar and experience The New. You wonder why you can’t just bring drinking water to an entire continent overnight, because you’ve thought of a way. Or how you can stop violence against a majority by changing everyone’s minds overnight.

And then it comes back to the reason, the excuse, the barrier: people. One person is great; one person can indeed change the world. But people? They’re arseholes. They’re stubborn, jealous, vindictive, tiny-minded, judgemental gits. And that will never change. You could have the secret of clean energy for the entire planet, and there’d still be someone trying to stop you before you could plug it in. You could have a sit-down with major world leaders and be on the verge of everyone saying “You know, you’re right - why are we even fighting about this? What a bunch of twats we’ve been all this time” and there’d be one person spiking the water with Stella to start a new punch-up.

So I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on. I’ll continue to go to work, turn up the music, lay on the alcohol, and watch Time roll by. I feel like I’m literally wasting (filling?) time until I finally die. I don’t want to, but the idea doesn’t scare me, either. It just fills me with sadness that I won’t have done anything worthwhile before I go. I think if I was on a plane or in a car crash or something where I had 3 seconds to realise the inevitable was about to happen, my reaction would be something like ‘well, shit’. Resignation, acceptance, disappointment. That’s what it would feel like.

In the meantime, I am trying to get an original fiction novel published. That’s going about as well as you’d expect - even though every time I send it off, I’m excited and hopeful. Give it two months with no favourable reply and I’m back to square one.

And so it goes.

Hmm. No.

So for reasons I won’t go into, I ended up trying the BBC show Miranda. The first episode had me laughing out loud, so I went with it. Before I knew it, I’d done the entire first series. And then the second. I’m currently trying to stretch out the third and final season, as it’s been such fun I don’t want it to end so soon.

The thing is, I’m trying to work out why I find it so funny. We don’t have a lot in common, me and the Miranda of the show, but I do enjoy the live audience’s reaction. It’s like they’re all my friends and they react the same as me. The first time they went ‘booooo!’ I’ve went: hang on, this is fun. I like the in-jokes that carry over into more series. I like the set-up. I like the humour. I think the way she carries on with her mate are how me and my HK flatmate used to be. One thing perhaps I was not banking on was the one thing we do have in common: how single we are.

The character enjoys being single: she makes her vegtepals and fruit friends, and amuses herself with jelly in the blender and home concerts. She may come under constant and harsh fire from all around her for being without a boyfriend, but she does enjoy her single life. There’s an edge of desperation about it, but maybe that’s why it’s a little too close for comfort.

I’ve been on dating websites. They all lasted about 2 weeks because on those rare occasions I had messages from people, I did not seriously consider that I would have to speak back to them. And there was no way on this Earth that I’d actually want to meet anyone. And so all memberships were revoked and I went back to normal, safe in the knowledge that it wasn’t for me.

And then I watched the show and I thought, well, maybe the reason I want her to get together with Gary is not about her at all (although, hey, it is Tom Ellis). Maybe I have my own displacement going on and it’s all about me after all. That is an unfortunate truth that I have managed to accept, in that I’m now comfortable with my discomfort of its voracity.

So here I go again on my own, as the song goes: I joined yet another dating site. This is more about listing your favourite choons and bands, and finding people who like the same music. So there’s that.

First things first: you come up with a username. Done. Then you give the site some details, like age, place, gender, hobbies, more artists, gig or concert history, that kind of thing. Done. And then they ask for a photo - of course they do. Like people trawling for new jobs don’t consider one without a salary listed, photos on dating sites are pretty much deal-breakers.

So what do you do if you don’t have any photos? I mean none. I don’t have any selfies on my phone, or in fact anywhere else. I have one picture of me from this year, and that was at a convention. It’s a perfect shot of my cosplay, just not of me. So no, it’s not being used. Plus I’ve had my hair cut since and do not want a photo on there of a time when I was more unhappy with my hair than I am now.

Cue me getting up on a sunny, Sunday morning and taking an extra 10 minutes to ‘do my hair’ after my shower. Plus a bit of make-up (and I don’t do make-up) to smooth everything over. Go outside, find a good spot with a background of bright azure sky with fluffy white clouds, and there we go. Selfie that shit. Check the shot, take two more, then have a cigarette and wonder if it’s all really worth it.

It’s gone up on the site. No, I’m not doing any more. I’m making an effort with this; I do a post a day about the songs I like. Mostly because part of me is really quite worried what being single is doing to me in terms of not being used to sharing, of communicating, of planning or being a grown-up.

That last one - being a grown-up. If there’s one thing a dating site does to me, it makes me look at everyone on there and realise I have no place there. Those people have lives, buy t-shirts and groceries, make permanent things like buying houses or getting married of having children. The most permanent thing about me is my use of Apple products. Seriously - I rent a place with no formal contract. I have a job that is not my life and could easily be changed for another. I’ve just come back from an overseas job and I’m realising how England is just not doing it for me. I’ve been searching for jobs back in HK but also in the USA. I’ve even looked at Canada on a whim. I’m seriously thinking of doing semi-paid volunteer work in the weather-ravaged parts of the USA to get an in on the whole green card thing, for 12 months as a try-before-you-buy. There is nothing permanent about my life. And it’s realising this that has triggered some borderline depression and the epiphany that I actually actively ignore most areas of my life because I can’t change them.

And that’s what it comes down to, I think. The old chestnut of ‘don’t worry about things you can’t change’ has literally got me into the pattern of flat-out ignoring what I don’t like about my life. For this reason, I have one mirror and it’s in the bathroom. For this reason, I don’t take selfies. For this reason, everyone I meet is the same and not judged on how much Another Me in Another Life and Position would shag them. Fancying people hasn’t come into it in for so long that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in a mind-set to fancy people. Considering I am nowhere near attractive enough (physically or personality-wise), in any light or stretch of the imagination, to make anyone want to meet me more than once, it’s a part of my life that is so ignored it doesn’t exist. (And friends meeting me more than once don’t count; we’re stuck with each other like we know where all the bodies are buried.)

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m so used to doing everything myself that I don’t consider looking for a partner to be a thing. Independence is a blessing and a curse; too much free ‘me’ time is definitely not good for me, and never has been.

I’ll continue to post on the dating site every day, to trawl through pictures, invent reasons why I won’t talk to the men in those pictures, and in a few weeks I’ll close the account again. It’s cyclical, and it’s depressing, but it’s what seems to happen.

It’s mostly not a problem; the two occasions where it is are (1) watching shows like Miranda and (2) those very rare occasions when my best mate gives me a hug and it’s so nice, and new, and comfortable, and friend-affectionate that it brings me to the point of tears. And seeing as I’m not even drunk when she does it, that’s pretty bad.

That looks like a good place to stop this before I talk myself into the kind of depression that is only helped by drink and Star Trek.


To Thine Own Self Be True - a crossing of 3 Doctors

Yay! Done some writing for a change. Things have been looking up recently and I’ve felt like working on things again. It was nice.

Ladies, gentlemen, boths and neithers, I give you:

Title: To Thine Own Self Be True

Rating: Rated K+ for some end-of-the-world talk. Thank goodness for the TARDIS swearing filter, that's all I can say.

Nine, Ten and Eleven find themselves in the same pub in… Gallifrey? This can’t be a coincidence; some other Gallifreyan must be manipulating them to achieve their plans of world domination, surely. Yes, s/he is. And don’t call me Shirley.

I do not own Doctor Who in any of its forms or any of the characters. This is all for fun, not for profit. Unless you add me to any favourites lists or leave comments. Then I profit in the knowledge that someone thinks it’s pretty good.

Contains: Nine, Ten and Eleven, Jack Harkness, an OC and two other Time Lords. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Linky-link-link: HERE at An Archive of Our Own under my name TozaBoma (because they don’t re-edit your stuff later) and HERE at Fanfiction dot net under my name Mardy Lass.

If you even visit the page, I thank you.


Before we start, let me explain. Not so long ago I blogged about my experiences at Dragon*Con 2016, and everything that led up to it, and the costumes I wore.

This post will be about those Star Trek costumes - what, how, and where.

To start: I had decided on a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine uniform. More specifically, a Bajoran Militia uniform as worn by Major Kira during season 2 of the show. Luckily for me, the Prop Store had one on their website, so I could see clear photos for reference. Every version of DS9, on VHS, DVD or Netflix, is very poor quality - plus the fact Major Kira didn’t exactly stop to pose for close-up shots so that we could see the intricate details of her uniform.

This beauty is a perfect storm of this sewing pattern, bought on eBay (there are others around - Etsy has some identical ones) and the lovely Karen over at Arena Costumes. Knowing nothing about sewing other than fixing the occasional hem, I decided the only way to get a wearable costume was to enlist specialist help. Karen was communicative, informative, and got straight on with the job. Magic.

I bought my own boots after scouring Amazon and the literally the world for something that had a bit of a heel, but was also large enough and brown or dark red enough to look like it went with the uniform. In the end I went with some ‘brown buckle strap ankle boots’ from New Look for about £25. I’m normally a 7 or 7.5 UK, so I went for a size 8 just in case. I was glad I did - it meant I could wear a pair of thick cotton sport socks with them. During the 12-16 hours walking round con hotels and crossing through the heat of Atlanta summer, it was so good to have absorbent, cushioned socks on!

Earring. Bajorans are famous for their earrings, and I couldn’t go without one. I already had a cuff and chain earring from another con (but didn’t end up wearing it). I got it originally from Etsy. Just go to any art site and type in ‘chain earring’ or ‘cuff earring’ and see what comes up. A lot of places also have them listed as Bajoran earrings, which makes everyone’s lives easier. Alternatively you can buy a base chain and the clip-on or pierced end, and then build your own using bits from your local Hobbycraft or equivalent.

Nose. Crikey blimey Charlie - the nose. If Bajorans are famous for their earrings, then their noses are legendary. You can buy prosthetic stick-ons quite cheaply on Tinternet - the problem is covering them in make-up to match your own skin tone, and then blending the edges in so you can’t see it’s an addition to your face. This was the part that I totally failed at. One, the nose I ordered from Etsy was for no discernible reason stuck at the Royal Mail sorting office for 3 weeks, so it didn’t actually arrive before I left, and two, when I did manage to buy a replacement in the vendor’s hall at Dragon*Con, I had no sticky stuff. Eyelash glue did not work, and to be honest, I was done with it. I put it on the list of things to be better at next time, and abandoned the nose entirely.

The second costume I wanted was a NEM/DS9 uniform. The problem with this one is that if you try to buy one of these Star Trek: Nemesis or DS9 uniforms, they’re for men - as in, jacket and trousers. Humpf, is all I can say. Well, I can say a lot more on the subject but I’ll keep that for another post. So again, I turned to Tinternet and it did not let me down. Bad Wolf Costumes are amazing. They make very very in-depth and involved PDFs of how ST uniforms are made up, from both scrutinising blu ray stills of the movies or series, and actually checking real props. The results are fantastic - if you could find the right fabric, you’d literally make uniforms good enough to use in filming. Their sewing patterns are a gods-send - as well as being reasonably-priced, and they ship outside of the States. Yay! Once I had the PDF, the sewing pattern and a few suggestions, I bundled it all up and sent it off to Karen at Arena Costumes. She did not disappoint.She made the jumpsuit itself and the teal coloured bodysuit underneath. There are quite a few choices for that one as in design, so I chose the ‘hero’ collar and opted for no sleeves. I’m glad I did! It took me a little while to get used to the collar, as normally I wear either v-necked t-shirts or wide open collars, but once I got it zipped up I was really happy with it.

Shoes were easy - I routinely wear 2 inch heels on what would otherwise be black Chelsea boots. I had a brilliant pair that I’d been wearing 5 days a week at work for about 3 months, and they were so comfortable I knew walking around the con (roughly 25,000 steps a day!) would not be a problem.

My sister had already bought me an iPad sized messenger bag back from Destination Star Trek in London a few years back, so I used that as my carrier for all things. It also meant I could attach my entry pass to it so it wouldn’t make holes in the spandex mix fabric of my uniform. Sorted!

That’s pretty much it. I wore each uniform for 2 days each (didn’t want to push it for longer than that without a washing machine) and had no problems with them - other than trying to reach the zip at the back of the Bajoran one! I think I was the only Bajoran militia at the entire con - but if I’m wrong and I didn’t see you - let me know.

I think that’s all for now. Peach and lube, people, peach and lube.

Dragon*Con 2016, and all that it means

We went, we saw, we took a shitloads of pictures. And for the first time in my life, I dressed up in cosplay. And it was awesome.

So. For those of you just joining us, Dragon*Con is probably the second largest fan convention of media and games after San Diego Comic Con. I could be wrong. However, I know Dragon*Con is far better than SDCC, because (1) you can afford the entry tickets, (2) you can actually get into panels you want to see, and (3) there’s so much to do, if you think you’re not going to get into a certain panel, there are at least 3 others on at the same time you can have a crack at.

And, oh yeah, there are at least 3 parties every night that you can flit between. With alcohol.

My mate and I originally went to D*C in 2010, but we knew we would one day go again. We had no time frame. Skip years later, and she now has a fiancé with two teenage kids. I, on the other hand, have had nearly 3 years of living back in England and being close to terminally bored. We decided that 2016 would be the year to revisit D*C - coinciding with its 30th anniversary. Sorted.

Costumes. It took me less than a minute to name my first one. But then I wanted a second, too. So I planned and researched and emailed, and within a few months I had not only sewing patterns for both, but also the details of a professional seamstress - who would shortly be making my costumes for me. Other parts of the finished articles were actually harder to get - boots, pins, badges, earrings, belts, and even a nose. But I did find them, and over what seemed like years but was actually only 8 months, I put together two complete costumes.

Who did I want to go as? Hmm. This is a bit of a story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Way back in the dim and distant, I was a student. I had no real female role models, due to family circumstances and some old-fashioned attitudes to TV going on around me. Basically, there were no women on TV. Apart from Dana Scully, things were looking bleak. My dad used to have re-runs of Star Trek (TOS) on during the week when I was very young, and so when Star Trek: The Next Generation appeared during my secondary school years, I was curious enough to watch it (but perhaps not old enough to critique it. That and the fact that I was not yet a professional cynic). I liked it - I liked Tasha Yar as head of Security. And we all know what happened to her.

It would be a long time before Star Trek got another crack at me. In the meantime, I had Laura Holt of re-runs of Remington Steele fame to tide me over, as well as Dana Scully and Beverly Crusher. Deanna Troi got better as the seasons went on, but again, her character was normally an afterthought. The Star Trek Trio of three straight white dudes being the all-important triumvirate had not yet been threatened. We had gone from Kirk - Spock - Bones to Picard - Riker - Data. And still I was attempting to find who I was in a male-orientated, controlled environment.

Just as I was going through my GCSEs (end of secondary school exams when you’re 16, if you’re not familiar with the English school system), there were mutterings of a new Star Trek show. It finally debuted on BBC2 and I got to see a few episodes before my personal life went tits-up. But still throughout the rocky events and familial wars, there was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I was still struggling to work out who I was and why, and there was no-one around to help with that.

And then along came Major Kira.

She’s pretty much a legend in Star Trek circles. Like her or hate her, you certainly couldn’t ignore her. She had common sense, some tech and survival learning, was a bit of a fighter and marksman, and carried herself like someone who didn’t so much need self-confidence as just didn’t have time for people who thought their opinion of her was important. She did a few things that made TV audiences angry: she was a woman who voiced her opinion as if she were allowed one; she backed up her arguments with facts and reasons like she had thought it through even with her tiny female brain that should have been full of love interests and rom-com shit; she was not afraid to shout someone else down and, by all the gods and all of their brothers, you were not entitled to belittle her ideas or her opinions just because she wasn’t a man. Back in the real world of women being taught to conceal their emotions for fear of being told they’re just being ‘hysterical’, this woman who stood her ground and shouted in people’s faces, who called people out for being dicks, who owned up to making mistakes and spoke to people with the respect they deserved - it was ground-breaking for me. I was 17, and this was all new. It was magical. It was everything.

Of course it helped that the actress playing Kira Nerys was not exactly tall or built like a brick shit-house. Five foot seven she may have been, but she was a hundred pounds of fury and determination. She had excellent episodes where she was mad as hell and not going to take it any more, as well as stories that showed she could reconsider her belief system based on evidence and new discoveries. She taught me how to stand up straight and not care if people looked at me. She taught me I was allowed to take up space when I sat down on public transport. She taught me how to reply to people who didn’t realise I knew I had a right to voice an opinion. She taught me how to divorce indifference from things I just could not relate to; she taught me how to objectively weigh up my options, to step back and try to see things from other angles. And yes, she taught me that respect is not given until it’s earned.

So we had a black dude running DS9 - Commander Benjamin Sisko. He started off as a jagged edge, a weird square peg that didn’t want his square hole. In time he came to understand how to squeeze into the round hole he did want, and that was fine. He also learnt how to get on with his liaison officer Kira Nerys, and they became a closer Captain and First Officer than that of any other series. (Seriously, I will fight people on that point. I think I have at some time or other.) Already we were so far from the 3 straight white dude triumvirate we were used to. Maybe that’s why I gave the show more chances to impress me than TNG.

Whatever the reason, as the series went on it became obvious who else was getting more screen time and was Sisko’s rock, his confidant, his aid in all things: Jadzia Dax. A Trill symbiont, Dax ‘cheated’ death by moving from host body to host body upon that humanoid’s imminent death or through illness. Before Dax was joined to the humanoid female Jadzia, it was joined with Curzon - an ornery old man who loved klingons, wrestling, picking up twins on Risa for a one-night stand, and trying to teach a young Starfleet officer called Benjamin Sisko how to be a man. Right off the bat, we have a very interesting dynamic: the young woman who appears to be barely thirty years old is actually closer to three hundred and sixty, and has been Sisko’s father figure for at least thirty years. When he needs help and advice, he goes to Dax. When he needs to rant about Starfleet, it’s Dax. When he needs to angst about his son, or get feedback on a battle plan, it’s Dax. The symbiont, in various hosts, had been married as a husband and a wife, been a son and a daughter, died in shuttle accidents and lived out to a ripe old age. Dax had seven lifetimes of experience to draw on - and Sisko did just that. He listened to her counsel, he considered her words. Her opinions had weight with him - and as the seasons sped by, I realised not only was she the third point of the triangle, but she was someone I wanted to be when I grew up.

Sitting down and thinking about the two costumes - uniforms - I would wear to D*C wasn’t too hard, then. No other characters have had as much of an impact on me as Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax, just when I needed them. While the Bajoran nose prosthetic I bought for Kira just would not stick (seriously wtf is that made of?), and I had no hope of copying Jadzia’s Trill spot patterns, I wore both uniforms and I enjoyed the shit out of them. I walked down streets in Atlanta in broad daylight wearing either a Bajoran militia uniform or a Starfleet NEM/DS9 jumpsuit, and I was happy.

And here’s the magic of D*C: I wasn’t self-conscious because I was in costume - I have already been in the happy bubble of exactly no shits given about who looks at how I dress for years. However, when people in their costumes saw me on the street, they called out ‘Major!’, or ‘Kira!’, or ‘Hey, Starfleet!’. And I did it too.

We loved, and we were loved.

There was such a brilliant vibe of appreciation, of sharing, of plain wonder - and it was the best feeling in all the worlds. That’s what D*C is for me: sharing the fandom. And I don’t mean the Star Trek or Doctor Who or Mad Max or Jurassic Park or Harley Quinn or Pokemon fandom. I mean fandom as one single event, one giant mess of people unashamed of loving that one thing in their lives.

We got back Wednesday morning. It’s now Saturday night. I’m nearly over the jetlag, and I think returning to the ‘meh’ness and general malaise that comes with going back to live in a country you’re too familiar with hasn’t quite set back in yet. After all, there’s the streaming membership I purchased, so I can see a few panels I couldn’t get to, and some of the excellent TV moments from people who tweeted questions and opinions live. Thankfully or otherwise, Captain Kirk was not climbing a mountain this year.

That’s pretty much all the news that’s fit to print. I did make a list of things that I knew I’d need to remember about the con, but that’s for another post, seeing as this one is already longer than my wish list for Things From Another World.

Until I’m back, be proud of what you love and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be.

Peach and lube, people, peach and frelling lube.